Fantasy Baseball Draft Prep: 10 Middle Relievers to Target

Daniel WheelockContributor IIIMarch 14, 2011

Fantasy Baseball Draft Prep: 10 Middle Relievers to Target

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    Middle relief is the most unheralded position in baseball.  In real life, middle relievers are usually the weakest links on their team’s pitching staff and in fantasy baseball they are usually ignored altogether. 

    In roto leagues you would be very wise to draft one or two middle relievers on your team, especially in deeper mixed leagues and in NL or AL-only leagues.  Keep in mind that in head to head points leagues middle relievers are pretty useless.  They are not as valuable in head to head roto leagues as well, unless your league allows daily lineup changes.

    Some middle relievers can help out your ratios pretty significantly while others can give you some rogue saves. 

    There is constantly closer turnover in the MLB.  Guys like John Axford and Neftali Feliz started 2010 as setup guys, but they were closing games before too long.  Roto teams are always chasing saves so why not get ahead of the curve and draft a couple middle relievers that have a chance at getting you some saves.

Joaquin Benoit, DET

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    Missing all of 2009 due to injury, Benoit came back in 2010 with a bang.  He struck out 11.2 per nine and had sterling ratios (1.34 ERA; 0.68 WHIP).

    Benoit, the Nelson Cruz look-alike, moved outside the AL East to the Detroit Tigers this offseason, which can only help his numbers.

Clay Hensley, FLA

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    Hensley, maybe most famous for giving up Barry Bonds' 755th home run to tie Hank Aaron, was a so-so starter with the Padres, but settled nicely into a relief with the Marlins a year ago. Hensley should give you a great ERA and WHIP while striking out a batter per inning. He saved seven games for the Marlins in 2010, but Leo Nunez is still the closer (for now).

Sergio Romo, SF

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    Romo’s beard was about half as awesome as fellow Giant Brian Wilson’s during the team’s 2010 playoff run.  We won’t take that into consideration when evaluating him for fantasy purposes. 

    Romo sported a 2.18 ERA and a sub-1.00 WHIP and struck out 10.2 per nine.  While his strikeout rate dropped from 2009 to 2010, his K/BB ratio improved drastically (3.73 to 5.00).

Hong-Chih Kuo, LAD

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    Kuo sported a 1.20 ERA and a 0.78 WHIP while striking out 11 per nine innings.  He saved 12 games for the Dodgers in 2010, but Jonathan Broxton is still the team’s closer. 

    Watch out though…Kuo has already had two Tommy-John surgeries and he hasn’t had one since 2003 so he is due again.

Rafael Soriano, NYY

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    Soriano, the $35 million setup man, is headed to New York to pitch the eigth inning for the Yankees. He only struck out 8.2 per nine innings, way down from 12.1 the year before, had a 1.73 ERA and a ridiculous 0.82 WHIP while leading the league with 45 saves.

    Soriano figures to spell the aging Rivera from time to time so eight-10 saves would not be out of the question.

Daniel Bard, BOS

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    Bard is the unquestioned closer of the future in Boston. If Papelbon struggles like he did a year ago, Bard will take over as the team's ninth inning option. He had a sub-2.00 ERA, a WHIP of 1.00, and struck out just over a batter per inning.

Jake McGee, TB

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    The closer battle seems to be wide open in Tampa Bay and McGee is in the mix to land the job.  Joe Maddon could implement a closer-by-committee situation, which would definitely get the lefty some save opportunities.  McGee was a starter until late last year when the Rays sent him to the ‘pen, so he could reach the majors sooner rather than later.

Evan Meek, PIT

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    Joel Hanrahan is the official closer of the Pirates in 2011, but he couldn’t hold that job in Washington.  Meek could easily end up with 10-plus saves on the year.  His strikeout rate is the lowest of anyone on this list, but he will help you with his ratios even if he doesn’t close many games.

Jonny Venters, ATL

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    Craig Kimbrel is the popular choice to get the Braves’ closer job in 2011, but Fredi Gonzalez has said he might let Kimbrel and Venters share the job.  If that’s the case, Venters could get 15 to 20 saves while offering similar ratios as the rest of the guys on this list.

Mike Adams, SD

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    Adams has always been an injury risk but when he’s healthy he is lights out (1.76 ERA; 1.07 WHIP).  It is no secret that Heath Bell will more than likely be traded before the trade deadline this year and that will open the door for Adams or teammate Luke Gregerson to rack up some saves.  I expect that man to be Adams.

The Best of the Rest

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    Aroldis Chapman, CIN

    Kenley Jansen, LAD

    Luke Gregerson, SD

    Kyle McClellan, STL

    Jason Motte, STL

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